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Three years into the project, the first generation of V1.0 RepRap fabrication machines are busily extruding the second generation — together with a whole new range of challenges. Three years is about what it took Linus to get Linux to 1.0 status, so we feel we’re on track.
The basic machine can fabricate plastic items roughly the size of a shoebox, extruding them from a range of plastics at roughly 8cc per hour. It’s a great start, but where to go from there? Do we make it faster? More accurate? Bigger or smaller? Hard choices.
But wait, it is open source and cross-platform. You can decide! Vik Olliver will show you how the machine works, and discuss the ways in which you could take the project. When we mix metal into the plastic, for example, we can create circuit boards without etching — and they don’t have to be flat any more. Or perhaps you would prefer to develop an inkjet head that can deposit organic semiconductors in the way that OLED screens are currently printed?
We’re not quite up to printing circuits yet, so we have moved to using the popular Arduino board to control the device. This lets the project take advantage of the pool of Arduino developers out there, but also gives them access to our motor controllers, temperature control systems, and other goodies that are already being subverted into other projects.
This next phase of the project is all about placing RepRaps into the hands of people like yourself. Whether you are into hardware, software, future technologies, use 3D printers, do CAD, or just want to see what this new tool can do for the amateur, there is a place in this project for you.
By day, Vik is a mild-mannered systems analyst for New Zealand’s leading Open Source company, Catalyst IT. By night, he transforms into a teleworking researcher in 3D fabrication for The RepRap Project at Bath University in the UK. He has worked on everything from implantable heart monitors to massive telco gateways, and from boring system analysis to 2-seater electric racing cars. He shares his time unevenly between the above, a wife, 2 daughters and 6 cats.